Smoking risk shifts from health to wealth under ban

Article date: 25 June 2007

The smoking ban - coming in to force in England on 1 July - while protecting health may bring a new risk of fire if not properly managed, says Norwich Union.

The insurance company suggests a number of potential problems arising from the blanket ban on smoking inside business premises.

Allister Smith, Norwich Union's property risk manager, says: "Being smoke-free is obviously good news for people's health and well-being, but a total ban on smoking inside a building can bring a new risk of fire caused by smokers gathering outside, or can even lead to surreptitious smoking taking place inside buildings, and this needs to be properly managed on an ongoing basis.

"Where smokers are relocated to areas outside premises, the risk of fire goes with them, caused by cigarettes being discarded either in bins or on the floor where there may be combustible materials."

Smith adds: "Businesses need to provide a safe area for people to smoke that also minimises the risk of fire.

"Therefore, smoking shouldn't happen near storage areas for waste or close to combustible materials. If the smoking area has a bin for cigarette butts, that also needs emptying on a regular basis."

As well as complying with the relevant legislation relating to design of shelters, it is important that careful consideration is given on the location, construction and management from a property protection perspective the structures must be:

  • Subject to a specific fire risk assessment
  • Constructed of non-combustible materials,
  • Where practicable, sited at least 10m away from any building or structure
  • Provided with suitable metal ashtrays and a separate metal waste bin with a fitted lid
  • Monitored so that smoking waste and nearby combustible material is removed regularly and safely.

Shelters must also not be sited near to: -

  • windows
  • ventilation intakes/extracts
  • entrances and exits from the premises
  • hazardous materials
  • waste storage containers (such as skips or bins) or beneath a canopy or low overhanging eaves.

In addition, raised, slatted floors and decking should be avoided and concealed or semi-open voids below decking should be sealed to ensure combustible debris cannot accumulate beneath the shelter. The use of combustible curtains, canopies and drapes within smoking areas must also be avoided.  If the use of portable heaters is proposed the guidance contained in RC15, Recommendations for the use of portable and transportable heaters in commercial and industrial premises should be followed.

Guidance for businesses on how to develop and implement a no smoking policy is available from


For further information, please contact:
Jon Clements at Staniforth or 0161 919 8022/07989 414486 or Sally Leeman at Norwich Union on 01603 684225/ 07800 699670.

Notes to editors

  • Norwich Union is the UK's largest general insurer with a market share of around 15%, with a focus on insurance for individuals and small businesses.
  • It is a leading provider of life, pensions and investment products and one of the largest Financial Adviser (FA) providers.  FAs provide over 70% of the company's long-term savings business in the UK.
  • Norwich Union's news releases and a selection of images are available from Aviva's internet press centre at

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